Hello and welcome on my blog. My name is Genki.Gamer, but people call me Johnny. In this post I will shortly discuss an interesting debate in the Belgian media. This post is meant as a short introduction to more a more in depths post on a manga that I want to discuss in the future.
Kuifje, Tin Tin in English has recently stirred up an interesting controversy in Belgium, the country of Tin Tin’s creator Hergé. The debate is on one of Hergé’s early comics: Tin Tin in Congo (1931). One only needs to look at the cover of the comic to understand what the controversy is about. A young Congolese student accused Hergé of being racist and started different court cases against the comic between 2007 and 2012. Despite the fact that several changes have been made to the comic over the decades the Congolese students demands the comic is put out of print in Belgium and in France.
The debate in my opinion is a very interesting one for it shows the common tensions that exist between aesthetics and human rights if you will. Hergé’s comics have been read by many and many generations. My father grew up reading Hergé in the 60s and without a doubt his comics has been of significant influence to him and other around that age. This aspect of history and nostalgia to a certain degree give the comic a feel of artistic timelessness. It feels wrong to ban a comic that so many people grew up reading and enjoying. In no way am I saying that the revisions to the comic have been wrong or do I believe the Congolese student to be making a big mistake by starting these court cases. Tin Tin in Congo is without a doubt a racist comic, yet it would be a shame if that would be the only conclusion we would come to. As I mentioned before the comic in my opinion has over the years reached an important historic status. I know this point is difficult to defend, especially because words as “historic status” or “artistic value” tend to come across as vague because whatever people find historically important or artistically beautiful is based on opinions.
The comic in many ways gives us interesting insights into our (Belgiums) colonial past. “How?” I hear somebody ask? Hergé admitted that when writing the comic, he himself had never been to Congo, neither had he done research on daily life in Congo. In that case there is no way that Tin Tin in Congo can reflect the reality of life in Africa. Then what is it we are seeing? Tin Tin in Africa simply reflects the image of how Hergé and other Belgians in the 1930s viewed Congo. The comic in this respect teaches us more about the colonizer, and his view of Congo than that it teaches us about the colonized. One could argue that this makes Tin Tin in Congo a typical case of Orientalism. This view changes the status of the original, unedited version of the comic from a racist comic into that of one with historic relevance that exposes important power structures from back then.
That would be my opinion, I’d be interested in reading what you have to say on this matter.